Last year, community colleges across America helped millions of their students save billions of dollars in tuition on their way to a bachelor's degree! That’s a significant accomplishment. Onondaga Community College, an Affordable College partner, clearly presents the value of our community colleges on their transfer opportunities page where you’ll see Chris Steinberger’s student testimonial. In it he says, "It was the option that had the most value. I could go somewhere and pay $60,000, but I wanted to start a business. I didn’t want to start $300,000 in debt." But, higher education leaders continue to look for new ways to help even more community college students afford and attain a bachelor's degree. In an effort supported by The Gates Foundation, The Aspen Institute, Public Agenda and The Community College Research Center recently published The Transfer Playbook with essential practices for two- and four-year colleges. The Achieving the Dream National Reform Network, The League for Innovation in the Community College, The National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development, and The American Association of Community Colleges are some of the other organizations focused on helping more community college students succeed.
That’s why I was so happy to see Affordable College profiled in Inside Higher Ed by Ashley Smith in her article, Shopping for Transfers. We were both excited about and grateful for Inside Higher Ed’s interest in our company because it effectively showed the role we aspire to play as a collaborator with the other organizations dedicated to community college success. I’d like to build on Inside Higher Ed’s reporting on Affordable College by highlighting three unique parts of our company’s story that indicate our role in a larger effort to increase community college success.
First, Affordable College is a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation. Attorney Steven H. Schulman wrote in the AG Deal Diary that, “Delaware PBCs are required to state a specific public benefit, which means “a positive effect (or reduction of negative effects) on one or more categories of persons, entities, communities or interests (other than stockholders in their capacities as stockholders)” He also points out, “PBCs . . . permit a corporation’s directors to also take into account the social purposes of their actions.” Forming Affordable College as a PBC aligns our mission with that of our stakeholders enabling us to collaborate with them as partners. While traditional companies often state social impact goals, their boards are required by law to pursue a single goal, maximizing shareholder value. Eliminating this fiduciary conflict frees us to build a platform that serves students, community colleges, universities, and shareholders.
Second, we’re not only focused on transfer. Our founding documents state that we provide “support for community colleges to increase enrollment, retention, and transfer rates.” We eventually learned we could also increase college readiness, so we later added it to our mission. Julie White, a senior vice president for student engagement and learning support at Onondaga Community College, speaks to this part of our mission in the article when she says, “The challenge our students find is understanding the wealth of information available to them, and that’s where Affordable College comes in.” It falls on everyone involved in supporting community college success to close the information gap for students, especially at community colleges where students are fitting college into work, family life, and other realities unique to a community college student.
Lastly, as noted above, we’re part of a larger community college success movement and are therefore openly collaborating with other organizations, starting with the community colleges themselves. If we’re going to tap the enormous human potential of the students at our community colleges, we have to.